Set in the heart of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines, on the border with Marche and Umbria, the Riserva Naturale Alpe della Luna (Alpe della Luna Nature Reserve) takes its name from the mountain range that runs from south-west to north-east and is traversed by the long watershed separating the Tyrrhenian basin and the Tiber valley from the Adriatic basin. At 1,453 metres above sea level, Monte dei Frati is the highest point.
The geology of the protected area is characterised by marl and sandstone blocks. The most scenic and visible is called Ripa della Luna, with its characteristic sickle shape.
The municipalities included in the reserve managed by the Tuscany Region are Pieve Santo Stefano, Badia Tedalda and Sansepolcro. The main information and access points are at Germagnano on the Tiber side and at Badia Tedalda on the Valmarecchia side, with a visitor centre offering environmental education activities and other initiatives for individual visitors and groups. The facility also houses the “Sala della memoria” (Hall of Memory), where various exhibits tell the history of the area from prehistoric times to World War II, since the Gothic Line passed through the area.
The reserve covers an area of 1,540 hectares, 86% of which is covered by dense woodland, which in the higher parts is mainly characterised by beech forests. Descending in altitude, turkey oaks, black pines and silver firs prevail on the Tyrrhenian side. On the Adriatic side, in addition to these plants, we also find black hornbeam, maple, ash, linden and Scots pine. The meadows are home to various types of orchids, making it a priority habitat for the European Community.
A characteristic element of the entire Alpe della Luna territory is water. T he main rivers that originate in the mountain complex are Marecchia, Metauro, Foglia and Afra, but throughout the protected area one can observe a dense network of streams and torrents that give rise to picturesque waterfalls. The watercourses are home to a rich fish fauna and amphibian species such as the Alpine newt, the crested newt, the Italian geotriton, the Apennine frog and the yellow-bellied toad.
The fauna is typical of the Apennines, with the presence of wild boar, fallow deer, roe deer, wolves, badgers, foxes, polecats, hares, porcupines and squirrels among the mammals. The avifauna is rich and of great interest. The most common birds are woodpeckers, wood pigeons, tawny owls, winter wrens, thrushes and jays. Birds of prey include the golden eagle, sparrow hawk, buzzard, goshawk, kestrel and hobby.